This year, Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, will fall on May 1. One of the dishes we traditionally make is called syrnaja pascha, “pascha cheese.” It is a cheese-cake like food that we mold into a pyramid and eat slathered onto a sweet bread called kulich.
One of the ingredients for pascha cheese is farmer’s cheese. Apparently there are two kinds of farmer’s cheese. One is a hard product that you can chop up and put in salad. It’s closely akin to paneer and does not lend itself well to blending or molding. The other is the kind that they sell in Russian stores. We could not find it in the part of Houston where we lived for eleven years, so the ladies at church taught me how to make my own.
Scald one gallon milk.
Remove from burner and add one quart buttermilk (from the nuns, I learned to pour things in the sign of the Cross. Since you’re not supposed to stir this, it makes even more sense here.)
Cover with a towel and place out of breezes for a day and a night and a day.
At the end of the second night, place it in the oven on “warm.”
In the morning you will see a mountain of curds in a sea of whey (unless it doesn’t work. Some years it doesn’t work, and California milk needs to be treated differently for reasons I do not understand).
Strain the curds into a very clean pillow case or tee shirt — cheese cloth has too wide a weave for this.
Refrigerate in a closed container until you are ready to use.
One gallon of milk plus one quart of buttermilk makes approximately two and a half pounds of Farmer’s Cheese.
Does it save money? Yes! Locally, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Farmer’s cheese runs from $3.99 to $7.99 per pound. I can make ten pounds of cheese for about ten dollars.
Photo: Curds sans whey